Nutrition for Fertility
Issues of Fertility
Fertility problems have slowly been on the rise for the last 25 years, with up to 25 per cent of couples experiencing difficulties in conceiving. Causes include:
- Ovulatory failure (including Polycystic Ovary Syndrome) 20%
- Tubal damage 15%
- Endometriosis 5%
- Male problems (including low sperm count) 26%
- Unexplained 34%
As a result, more and more couples are seeking expensive medical assistance in order to conceive. Science is however unable to effectively treat “unexplained” cases where there is obviously a deeper problem at hand. This is where natural approaches to infertility may be useful, as most holistically address the couples lifestyle factors, emotional life and nutritional deficiencies in order to solve the infertility problem.
Maintaining a good, nutritious diet is imperative when trying to conceive. It ensures a strong immune system, healthy weight and he ideal internal environment for pregnancy. Read on to find out more about how a nutritious diet can assist with issues of infertility.
Nutrients and Foods for Infertility
In terms of nutrition, specific foods and their nutrients are essential to good reproductive health. Some of these include:
- Folic acid, which is important to reproductive health as it works to prevent birth defects (such as Spina bifida in newborns). Foods rich in folic acid include romaine lettuce, spinach, asparagus, broccoli, beets and lentils
- Iron, that when deficient may cuase Ovulatory infertility. Foods rich in Iron include red meat, poultry, fish, whole grains and dark leafy vegetables
- Zinc, which strengthens the immune system and provides a healthy body in which quality eggs and sperm can be produced. Foods rich in Zinc include, Oysters, Shellfish, Brewers yeast, red meat, poultry, brown rice, dairy products and pumpkin seeds
- Selenium, is a powerful antioxidant that fights destructive free radicals in the body. Good levels of selenium are not only essential to sperm formation, but also assist in the prevention of the chromosome breakage responsible for birth defects and miscarriages. Foods rich in Selenium include Brazil nuts, shitake mushrooms, salmon, Snapper, cod, shrimp, oats and sunflowers seeds
- Essential Fatty acids (EFA’s) help to regulate hormonal activity and strengthen reproductive function. In men particularly, EFA’s are critical to sperm production as they form the basis of prostaglandins that semen is rich in. Foods rich in EFA’s include Salmon, flaxseeds, avocado, walnuts and pumpkin seeds
- Vitamin E is another powerful antioxidant that may benefit female reproductive health and increase sperm fertility. Foods rich in vitamin E include mustard greens, turnip greens, chard, almonds, spinach and sunflowers seeds
- Vitamin C is also another powerful antioxidant that has been shown to protect sperm DNA from damage (therefore enhancing the sperm quality), to improve sperm motility and to regulate ovulation in women. Foods rich in vitamin C include Citrus fruits, tomatoes, broccoli, strawberries, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, spinach and papaya
- L-Carnitine, an amino acid that improves sperm count, motility and overall functioning of sperm cells. Foods rich in L-Carnitine include fish, avocadoes, wheat, poultry and soybeans
- L-Arginine is another amino acid that may increase sperm count and motility (as sperm heads are rich in the nutrient). Foods rich in L-Arginine including peanuts, walnuts, coconut, animal products, oats, wheat, soybeans and chocolate, NB: Those who suffer from cold sores of genital herpes should not supplement with L-Arginine as it may stimulate the virus.
Foods that Lower Fertility
Certain foods and nutrients may actually reduce your ability to conceive. Some of these include:
The more you drink, the less likely you are to become pregnant. Recent studies have shown that alcohol decreases sperm count, lowers the portion of active sperm and increases abnormal sperm in men. In women, consumption of more than 5 units of alcohol a week have also been linked to a 50% decreased risk in conceiving.
Caffeine (especially that of coffee) has been demonstrated to decrease fertility. Recent studies have shown that caffeine may constrict female blood vessels, impairing adequate blood flow to the uterus and inhibiting fertilized egg implantation. In men, caffeine may reduce sperm quality, motility and may increase the chance of birth abnormalities.
High red meat consumption may inhibit a couples attempt to conceive. Eating red meat causes elevated ammonia levels in the body, which may in turn prevent implantation in the uterus and inhibit sperm activity.
Most dairy products will cause an excessive production and thickening of the cervical mucous, which may become hostile towards sperm and inhibit the contraception process from unfolding.
Artificial Flavours and Preservatives
Foods containing artificial flavours and preservatives, such as MSG and artificial sweeteners, are not only detrimental to overall health but may also directly influence blood sugar and hormonal levels.
For More Information
If you and your partner are experiencing fertility problems and would like more information on how good nutrition may assist, please speak to your local Nutritionist or Naturopath.
Find out about other effective natural infertility treatments.
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